Syphilis: Alive and Well
Syphilis, the word brings to mind to most a disease of the past. In truth syphilis is alive and well today and a very active participant in that select club known as sexually transmitted infections (STI). By no means is syphilis the terrible killer that it was for over 400 years. The invention of penicillin reduced the cases of syphilis astronomically. Yet, even though there is a simple treatment for syphilis, people still are infected with it today and fail to receive treatment and then infect others keeping the vicious cycle of syphilis alive.
Syphilis is an infection caused by a bacteria called Treponema Pallidum (CDC, 2004). This bacteria is extremely fragile, and cannot be spread during contact with objects such as toilet seats or towels. It is transmitted by sexual contact or from a mother to her unborn child. The bacteria enters the body through mucous membranes or open skin, once inside the body the bacteria enters the blood stream and attaches to cells and if left untreated can ravage a body and even cause death (Syphilis, 2003).
Syphilis is very similar to other sexually transmitted diseases in the manner that it is transmitted. The best ways to avoid infection is by either abstinence or "safe sex" through the use of barrier protection or sex with a known tested uninfected individual.
One of the scariest points on syphilis is that it is one of the few sexually transmitted infections that can kill, AIDS being the other one. The tragedy with syphilis is that there is a known, very effective treatment that cures an individual of the infection. The victims of AIDS do not have this option.
The first documented cases of syphilis began to appear in Europe soon after Christopher Columbus and his crew sailed back into the harbor of Palos, Spain on March 15, 1493 (Hayden, 2003). The question of where syphilis came from has been hotly debated for centuries. The two main theories of the origin of syphilis are the New World/Columbian Theory and the Old World/ Pre-Columbian Theory.
The New World/ Columbian Theory holds that syphilis was endemic on the island of modern day Haiti, when Christopher Columbus and his crew discovered this island in the New World. Columbus and his crew were infected by syphilis through sexual contact with the natives and then carried syphilis back to Europe in the late 1400's (Rose, 1997). This theory would make sense in that it is a great coincidence that the epidemics of syphilis that ravaged Europe only begun soon after Columbus and his crew returned from the New World. As Voltaire said, "Syphilis was the first fruit gathered from the New World by the Spaniards" (Hayden, 2003). Possibly syphilis was a poetic justice from the New World that reeked havoc and death on the Old World for the atrocities that it committed against the New World and its native people.
The other theory on the origin of syphilis is known as the Old World/ Pre-Columbian Theory. It holds that...